Last week my mom and I stayed up late one night to talk about words that have lost their meaning.
The English major in me lamented the overuse (and increasing misuse) of the word, "literally." Mom mourned the familiarity of the word "awesome."
I was slightly surprised by her choice. After all, I grew up in a generation where "AWESOME!" was our exclamation of something great and moving and just plain cool. I liked the word as an expression of joy. Mom saw it differently. She thought of the adjective, "awesome," as describing only that which invoked awe.
Of course, we couldn't have a conversation about the word, "awesome," without talking about Rich Mullins' song. Twenty years have passed since Mullins died in a car accident, and nearly thirty have passed since he first recorded "Awesome God." Here was an instance when "awesome" was appropriate: to describe the God with "thunder in his footsteps and lightning in his fists."
Over the years I've heard a lot of criticism about Mullins' famous song, but I still choose to sing it. More importantly, I still choose to sing the whole song.
Like Mullins' song, "Step By Step" (whose actual title is "Sometimes By Step"), we have reduced "Awesome God" to a chorus over the years. A catchy melody to which we can add hand motions. A declaration of a familiar word attached to God.
When was the last time you listened to the whole song?
To the parts about Sodom and Gomorrah and getting kicked out of Eden?
To the parts about the reason Jesus shed his blood and the voice that created Light?
What makes "Awesome God" powerful is that Rich Mullins doesn't sugarcoat the gospel. He tells the story of our sin as well as the story of our salvation. He lays out our heritage of judgment as well as mercy. The praise of the chorus is only possible because of the forgiveness we receive in the verses.
I understand why the Church has moved away from talking too much about fire and brimstone. I understand the need to declare mercy and grace in these divisive times.
But Rich Mullins' whole song has reminded me that we can't fully understand, or receive, the promises of God without acknowledging the power of God.
The omnipotence of God.
"The reckless, raging fury that we call the love of God" (from another of Mullins' songs).
The splendor of a God who unclenched those lightning-filled fists and slipped those thunder-rocking feet into a pair of Galilean sandals.
Our God is awesome not because we think he's "just plain cool" towards us but because his actions of redemption and salvation are worthy of all awe.
Let's reclaim the awesomeness of God by singing the whole song.
Let the awe overwhelm us as we reflect on the whole story of Scripture.
Let us discover wholeness in the One who is worthy of the word, "awesome."
all good things to each of you,